The general view is radio in the Caribbean is dead. What started as a history of listening to hourly BBC news reports (which often served as alarm clocks for many), to hearing well-articulated Caribbean voices announcing community segments or hosting discourse on national issues has now been ravaged by rowdy DJs, accompanied by raucous popular music.
Many belonging to the era of Rediffusion or the AM band believed that radio had a particular connection unlike now. But for Julian Rogers, radio is not dead. What matters more is quality.
Rogers, who made his name in Trinidad as a probing yet endearing talk-show host for the early-morning current affairs programme, TV6's Morning Edition, is Barbadian by birth. During his stay here, back in 1998, then prime minister Basdeo refused to renew his work permit. On his return in 2005, he was content manager and head of news for the rebranded state-TV/radio, now known as CNMG (Caribbean New Media Group).
Now living in Antigua, Rogers has fulfilled his dream to open his own radio station–Rogers Radio Caribbean. The fact that he is heading into an environment that already has 20 radio stations is not a daunting one for him.
"I don't see any threat in any real terms...What the audience expects or demands is a quality product. May the best man win. Everybody has to find a way to survive," he said.
With 50 years in the media, advertising and public relations, Rogers' dream has always been to run his own radio station. Setting it up was dictated by the ability to raise money to fund it.
"I was looking at the market and where to set up," he said. He applied for a radio licence in 2005 when he returned to Barbados. Not too long after, he returned to Trinidad to develop the CNMG brand. In 2009, he moved to Antigua, returning to Observer Radio (where he worked in 2001 as general manager) until 2012.
"After that, I was not sure what I was going to do next. Six to eight months later, setting up a radio station was where I wanted to be," he said.
Understanding the milieu in which radio works now, he uses the technology to his benefit. "You can do work inside a building, or outside a building. There is a lot of flexibility," he explained. "I have a studio with a supporting newsroom set up. I am also planning a TV station."
At CNMG, he often used the phrase "converged newsroom." He encouraged a synergy between the TV and radio stations, with the hope that the team of reporters would understand that they could be flexible in any medium, providing what he called real news in real time. In Antigua, his philosophy remains the same.
"We have no choice to converge. This does not only apply to the journalist. The journalist we are looking for must possess multiple skills. Even specialists must have skills. It's a one-man creative force to produce. This applies to the station. The younger the journalist, the more comfortable they are with the technology," he said.
Two months after the radio station was launched, the newsroom is scheduled to be up and running in January. The staff comprises eight members so far, including one senior newsperson, Antiguan Omega Candy.
While he has always maintained a talk forum, Rogers' experienced format is to use music to attract listeners. Although he is a jazz enthusiast, he says he has not added much of his favoured genre to the music list. Instead, he matches the music as best he could, to provide as much historical context. Steelpan, calypso–a little Stalin included–create a relevance of memories.
"The 25-plus want to know what is happening. So I am providing entertainment and keeping them informed about what's happening around them," he said.
The setting up of Rogers Radio Caribbean is one of two milestones for the veteran journalist in 2014. In June, as part of the royal birthday celebration, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Rogers as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Broadcasting.
He acknowledges the value of the people who guided him on his career path–his headmaster who read at the front of the class, talking about what was happening in the news; his father who listened to radio news; his entrance into the world of work at age 16 when he joined the Barbados Rediffusion Service as a scriptwriter but ended up producing radio news; then later, he was producer of a nightly 9 o'clock newscast which involved capturing international news, rewriting notes and often ad-libbing on air; copywriter for the ad agency Corbin Compton.
It was only when Rogers collected the award from Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave in Barbados on November 14 that it really hit home that he was getting this honour.
"It's not something that happens every day. It gives a moment of pause. I was just plain happy, pleased as punch. 50 years in the biz? Hey!" he said.